Date of Award

Winter 12-7-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


Art & Art History

First Advisor

Melanie Yazzie

Second Advisor

Marina Kassianidou

Third Advisor

Melinda Barlow

Fourth Advisor

Matt Christie

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



Klema, Julia Topla Rose (M.F.A. Department of Art and Art History)

Imagining the World, Imagining Ourselves: Perception of Place, Sense of Self, and Creative Witnessing, Thesis directed by Professor Melanie Yazzie

This thesis examines how artistic response to landscape is both an act of definition and representation of place as well as a product of how an individual perceives the places they encounter. I investigate my own artistic practice, which is centered around expedition travel by river. From the vantage point of a river, a landscape may be seen in a dynamic way; a river is a natural and active pathway through the space. As a result of physical immersion in place, I creatively respond to rivers through photography, then work over the photographic images with printmaking and drawing techniques. Through the combination of these processes, I analyze how creative process may be a method through which it is possible to further understand our environments. Simultaneously, I dissect how artistic practice can be a means to develop knowledge through which we self-situate by correlating how acts of perception and representation relate to how we define ourselves. I examine how photography and drawing-based media function differently as representational and investigative tools, and how each entails varying levels of interaction, observation, and temporal involvement with landscape. In the text, I analyze how engaging in creative process challenges me to consider and reconsider how I understand my environments, scrutinizing how my preconceptions of landscape influence my creative practice. I question how artworks result in being both constructions and discoveries, records and interpretations, and how layers of interaction contained within creative process – person with place, person with creative act, and creative product with place – ultimately generate specific understandings of the world. I consider my work within the context of Rick Dingus’s photo drawing work, David Maisel’s aerial photographs of mines and lakes, Barry Lopez’s writings about interaction with landscape, John Berger’s explorations of drawing process, Rachel Jones’s deliberations on not knowing, Roland Barthes’s analysis of visual representation, and Robert Macfarlane’s philosophy on movement through landscape, among others. Through this inquiry and by approaching environment through creative practice, it is possible to see not only the makeup of landscape itself, but frameworks of representation as ways to cultivate, question, and challenge awareness. Through the creative act, I examine how artist and landscape form and inform each other.

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Art Practice Commons